"President Stroger and Dr. Simon have decided to wipe out these clinics where people like Sally Lemke do a wonderful job every single day," said Sheilah Garland-Olaniran of the National Nurses Organizing Committee. "Hundreds like her make this system work, and hundreds like her are gone. It's a disaster."
Last week, the Visiting Nurses Association Foundation named Sally Lemke its nurse of the year.
This week, Cook County government canned her.
In just a few days, she went from being honored as the 2007 Super Star in Community Nursing Award winner to the unemployment line after she declined a lower-paying county nursing job.
She still hopes to do all that but is re-prioritizing as the latest victim of sweeping county budget cuts that have closed health clinics and trimmed hundreds of jobs.
"This should be a happy moment for her," said Rob DiLeonardi, executive director of the nursing foundation. "Instead, it's overshadowed by her losing her job. It's a shame, and we're saddened by it."
Lemke helped start and runs a county program for at-risk pregnant mothers on Chicago's West Side. She's trying to keep her chin up but worries about the women in her care.
Lemke came to the county 18 months ago after an impressive career that has seen her working in grassroots, community-based programs across the country. She's a nurse practitioner, a position that requires advanced education and allows her to provide care similar to a physician.
County officials, she said, offered her little choice -- a lower-paying job as a basic floor nurse or a layoff.
Labels: CC Bureau of Health